Shepitko's first film (her remarkable diploma work for VGIK, where she was a pupil of Dovzhenko), Heat burns with the presence of the sun that scorches the earth and dictates human relationships in Central Asia. It was shot under grueling conditions, on the barren Kirghiz steppes without a single tree for shade; film stock literally melted, and the twenty-two-year-old director herself succumbed to the heat, directing the finale from a stretcher. Based on a well-known novel by Kirghiz writer Chinghiz Aitmatov (see also The First Teacher, September 30, in our Central Asian series), set during the mid-fifties effort to modernize farming methods in this region of the U.S.S.R., the story follows the clash between two officials on a collective farm, one rooted in ancient traditions and the other afire with his belief in the new agricultural system.

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